The next time you see Ryan Bader, make sure to call him champ-champ.
On Saturday night in California, Bader capped off the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix with a lightning quick 35-second knockout against legendary Russian Fedor Emelianenko to become the first ever two-division champion in company history.
While Bader was a heavy favorite going into the fight, Emelianenko had definitely enjoyed a resurgence with back-to-back finishes against Frank Mir and Chael Sonnen during the first two rounds of the tournament.
That run came to a dramatic end against Bader, who looked confident in the face of arguably the greatest heavyweight mixed martial artist of all time.
As soon as the fighters were released from their corners, Bader took the center of the cage and immediately started gauging his distance to avoid the kind of heavy-handed flurries that Emelianenko likes to throw.
Before the former PRIDE champion could really uncork a single punch, Bader ducked his head and launched a left hook that popped Emelianenko in the chin and sent him crashing to the canvas in a heap.
Bader followed up with a massive right hand that put the nail in the coffin to finish Emelianenko with the official stoppage coming at 35 seconds into the opening round.
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) January 27, 2019
With the victory, Bader is now the heavyweight and light heavyweight champion as well as the first ever Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix champion. With three belts draped across his body, Bader paid homage to Emelianenko after his historic win and then reiterated that he hoped Bellator would allow him to defend both of his titles now that he’s champion in two divisions.
“Heavyweight, light heavyweight, I want to defend both for sure,” Bader said following his latest victory.
It’s been an incredible run for Bader after joining Bellator following the end of his last contract with the UFC. The former NCAA All-American wrestler has gone 5-0 under the Bellator banner with three knockouts while also becoming a two-division champion.
As for Emelianenko, he didn’t address his future after the fight but he said before the event started that he had been contemplating retirement more and more recently. It’s tough to say if this will be the end but no matter when he calls it a career, Emelianenko will go down as one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time.
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Henry Corrales Flattens Aaron Pico With Brutal First Round Knockout
Despite Corrales winning his past four fights in a row, the attention was all on the super prospect Pico, who absolutely demolished his last four opponents in a row after a stutter step in his professional debut.
It looked like Pico was on his way to a fifth straight finish after he blasted Corrales with a perfectly timed uppercut during an early exchanged that dropped the veteran fighter down to one knee.
Pico went for the kill but rather than picking Corrales apart on the feet, he started chipping away at him from the clinch, trying to hammer away at him to get the finish.
The problem is Pico wasn’t protecting his chin while on the attack and that’s when Corrales uncorked a hellacious right hook that knocked the 22-year old featherweighjt out cold before he could even hit the canvas.
Corrales somehow managed to connect with two more quick punches as Pico was falling down but the fight was already over as the referee quickly rushed into stop the fight before any more damage was done.
The end came at just 1:07 into the opening round.
There was no doubt that the attention heading into the fight was all on Pico as Bellator has groomed him to be the next big thing but instead Corrales snuffed those plans with one well timed right hand.
Afterwards, Corrales immediately called for a title shot against featherweight champ Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire, who he faced in 2016 on short notice in a fight he lost by second round guillotine choke.
“Who’s next?” Corrales said. “I’m ready for that belt. Let’s go again.”
As for Pico, he drops to 4-2 in his career with both of his losses coming early in the first round. There’s no doubt that Pico still has all the potential in the world but his eagerness to overwhelm his opponents has come back to bite him and now he’ll have to go back to the drawing board again following this latest setback.
Jake Hager Dominates in Pro Debut
A former college wrestler at Oklahoma, Hager’s background is much closer to Brock Lesnar than CM Punk when it comes to professional wrestlers coming to mixed martial arts and it showed in his first fight against journeyman heavyweight JW Kizer.
Almost immediately after the first exchange on the feet, Hager was inside and putting Kizer down on the mat. From there it was all Hager as he mauled Kizer on the ground, advancing his position and working his way into an arm triangle choke.
Hager clamped down on the submission and while Kizer tried his best to resist, he was forced to tap out at 2:09 into the opening round.
“I like it here at Bellator,” Hager said following the win. “I plan on this being life for the next decade.”
While it was obviously a fight designed for him to win, Hager looked comfortable in the cage and doing exactly what he needed to do to get the job done in his Bellator debut.